This three-game series isn't quite the Detroit Tigers' last stand, but it's pretty close. A sweep of the Indians at Jacobs Field is probably far too much to expect, considering how well the Tribe has been playing recently. And Detroit hasn't been sweeping any series regularly, unless the Minnesota Twins are involved.
If the Tigers were to pull off such a feat, however, they'd be 1 1/2 games out of the AL Central lead with nine games left on the schedule. Winning two out of three to put them 2 1/2 games back wouldn't be an insurmountable deficit, but one game matters a whole lot at this point of the season. Accomplish anything less in this series, and the Tigers can probably kiss the post-season goodbye. A Tribe sweep would reduce their magic number to three, and all but clinch the division. Winning two out of three would produce nearly the same result.
Of course, it's not just about Cleveland either. The Yankees are only 2 1/2 games in front of the Tigers. But they're probably not going to be losing many more games with Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa Bay providing the opposition from here on out.
So in what amounts to a playoff series, could the Tigers be starting a better pitcher than Kenny Rogers in tonight's opener? He hasn't recorded a decision in his two starts since returning from injury, but has given up only three runs in 11 1/3 innings. In his lone start against Cleveland this season, Rogers pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing only one earned run. But he also has a career 6.09 ERA at Jacobs Field.
Paul Byrd has given the Indians a fearsome threesome, along with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. He's won seven of his past 10 starts, giving up more than three runs only twice during that span. Byrd has faced the Tigers three times this season (all at Comerica Park), and got the win in two of those games. The Tigers got to him once in early July, scoring four runs in seven innings, but he dodged a decision when Chad Durbin and Jose Capellan gave up home runs in the late innings. Detroit has been able to score runs against him each time out, however.
Let's Go Tribe provides the SB Nation opposing view for this series.
▪▪ If you were hoping for some Tiger Den seats from Tiger Stadium once they went on sale, you better have been fast with the cash. Those chairs with the Olde English D logo on them sold out in just three hours after the Tiger Stadium Sale site went up yesterday. Regular seats are still available, however. Anybody putting in a bid on some items?